Discursive Challenges in Relational Maintenance: A Study of Talk in On-Again/Off-Again Relationships
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This study takes a qualitative approach to the study of on-again/off-again romantic relationships as it analyzes partners’ talking to each other about their relationship. It focuses on the discursive practices partners enact to construct and deal with the challenging nature of their relationship. My launching point for the study comes from Dailey and colleagues’ initial examination of on/off relationships where they are presented as romantic relationships rife with challenges. After collecting and transcribing the data of three on-again/off-again couples, my analysis follows Tracy’s (1995, 2005) method of discourse analysis known as Action-Implicative Discourse Analysis (AIDA), which aims to reconstruct issues within a social context for the benefit of that context. The central argument for my thesis is that on-again/off-again partners together reconstruct their relationship as vulnerable. Analysis is conducted in two parts. The first part describes areas in which partners reveal reconstructed vulnerabilities. The second chapter of analysis then describes three main strategies partners use to manage these vulnerabilities. One is partners’ searching in relational description. Another is their playful accounting for problematic issues in the relationship. The third is partners’ joint performance of events that have shaped their relationship. My discussion chapter reflects on the limitations and implications of studying the discursive practices of on-again/off-again relationships.